The Son of the last of a long line of thinkers. (delascabezas) wrote,
The Son of the last of a long line of thinkers.

Stenography, Information Theory and a Chapel in Scotland

So the whole AACS thing is taking the geek world by storm. It is not too dissimilar to the outrage caused by DVDJohn's DeCSS ordeal. Amusingly, Wired is the first place I read about this months ago.

Laws that prevent people from having information are dangerous to all of us, and always proffered as laws keeping us safer. Laws governing viability and reproduction of information are more dangerous, in my opinion, than the laws that keep automatic weapons out of the hands of people who are criminally insane. The damage that bullets can do are limited to the range of the weapon they are fired from, and the aim of the individual shooting them. Legislation which restricts information not only has forward facing effects in terms of real data loss, it also stifles the forward motion of thought and progress on the back end. Sure, the flip side argument is made that the proper information, used nefariously, can undue thousands of hours of progress in a very short-sighted manner, or undermine entire safety systems. Personally, I'd rather the risk of having all the info I want than to be kept "safe" by the law.

I don't think that the ACCS data is of an earth-shaking magnitude of importance. What if, instead of a set of digits used to de-encode HDD-DVD protection, the AACS code was the key to a complex bio-encrypted molecular sequence? What if, when decoded, that sequence allowed you to synthesize a substance that could cure cancer, or the common cold, or halitosis (remember chemistry sets, in the days before 9/11)? Would the outrage be more viable then? Would the law be more silly? Empirically, no, if you believe the lobbyists who move the lawmakers. Contextually, you have to be out of your mind to argue.

Michael S. Malone makes some pretty good points in his ABC article about "not all information being equal". I'd rather everyone on the internet know where I live and have my social security number than have only a certain group of people with the right tools/power/security clearance/money to bribe have access to the information. I've long spoken of my crazy idea for total informational transparency (in person, the one time I tried to write about it, it ended up over 10k words, and i was only half-done). Well, this issue hits right on the head of it.

The fracas over the whole legal issue has created some highly innovative ways for people to publish or encode the information publicly. Some have been defiant about it. Some have been artistic. Many have been outright ingenious.

What helps here is that there is no strict governing body throwing everyone cross linking this data in the gulag. Threats of lawsuits and take downs are not dire repercussions to reposting the information. However, that is largely due to speed of information sharing, and the size of the collective network the information is shared across.

I was recently reading about The Rosslyn Motet and was highly skeptical until I watched this youtube video. It sort of forced these two issues to gel together for me. Why would you possibly go through as much trouble as Mitchell thinks someone went through to hide music? How did they know how to encode sound into shapes 600 years ago? Why would someone go through as much trouble as some companies have gone through to lock music up? In a world where you can get real-time on-demand streaming video, why are we doing everything we can to obscure who gets to watch it? How much information gets lost in the shuffle of time over movements like this, where a central governing body decides what is good/safe/right for people to be doing _across_the_board_?

Read about the Archimedes Palimpsest, and tell me that external bodies governing the worth of information, and, therefore, its viability are a good thing for forward momentum. I've been following that story for years, and the recent discovery of new information only further cements my position.

I can only hope that if we, as a species, make it through another couple millennium, that people won't be looking back at a scraping of something someone wrote today (on, say, evolution, cloning, or stem cell therapy) saying "Oh, gee... look how close they were to a global breakthrough that would have changed the world, if only these fuckheaded book-burners hadn't gotten in the way."

This is not a new problem to human thought. This is a problem that goes back to the codification of thought and memory in artifacts outside the mind and the spoken word. As soon as you commit it to writing, someone can burn it or deface it. The Chinese did it, the Babylonians did it,the Egyptians and the Romans did it, Crusaders did it, the Huns did it, the Inquisition did it, the Nazis did it, the Klan did it, hell, even modern groups do it (though generally not on television anymore).

This is a new problem culturally because here, in this country, there is a legal system that allegedly supports freedom of speech that is upholding corporate interests in direct defiance of those freedoms. This is not someone yelling "FIRE!" in a crowded library.

This is a series of numbers, or a treatise on floating bodies, or a book of Egyptian medicine, or a prayer lost to the atmosphere in smoking particles because it was to the wrong god. It is my freedom to speak, or, in this case, write.

09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0

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